President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted. Trump said the review would cover the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”
Trump’s announcement comes in the middle of the worst global pandemic in decades and as he angrily defends his own handling of the outbreak in the United States. Amid swirling questions about whether he downplayed the crisis or ignored warnings from members of his administration about its potential severity, Trump has sought to assign blame elsewhere, including at the WHO and in the news media.
The US funds $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year, Trump said, noting that China “contributes roughly $40 million.”
His decision to withdraw funding from the WHO follows a pattern of skepticism of world organizations that began well before the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has questioned US funding to the United Nations, withdrawn from global climate agreements and lambasted the World Trade Organization — claiming all were ripping off the United States.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said earlier Tuesday that while the WHO and China “made mistakes,” Trump is also looking to deflect blame from his own administration. “Right now, there is a very coordinated effort amongst the White House and their allies to try to find scapegoats for the fatal mistakes that the President made during the early stages of this virus,” he said. Murphy added: “It is just wildly ironic that the President and his allies are now criticizing China or the WHO for being soft on China when it was in fact the President who was the chief apologist for China during the early stages of this crisis.”
Just days before Trump instituted his ban on travelers from China, he also was praising the country. On January 24, Trump tweeted: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
Tuesday’s announcement about the halting of funding came days after a major US ally — the United Kingdom — announced an additional £65 million contribution to the WHO.